Prominent leaders of major Jewish and Christian global organisations this week announced an historic joint initiative calling on world leaders to take urgent, determined actions to halt the brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
The joint initiative was unveiled at a press conference on Monday (October 13) at the Christian Feast of Tabernacles celebration sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), with some 4 500 Christians from 80 nations in attendance, says the ICEJ in a media release.
The plight of Christian communities in the Middle East was at the forefront of the 35th annual Feast hosted by ICEJ in which Christians from around the world rejoice in the power of God, remember His past provisions, and celebrate His anticipated return. Also known as Sukkot – which means booths in Hebrew – The Feast of Tabernacles is a Jewish pilgrimage festival described in Leviticus 23:42-43.
Letter to world leaders
At the press conference media were briefed about a a letter recently sent to heads of state and/or government for 95 democratic countries and co-signed by ICEJ executive director Dr. Jürgen Bühler, World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder, and Dr. William M. Wilson, co-chairman of the Empowered21 Global Council and president of Oral Roberts University. The letter laments that the alarming situation for Christian minorities across the Middle East continues to worsen even while world leaders have largely ignored this on-going human rights tragedy. (Read the letter)
Dr Bühler noted that the participation of Lauder as head of the main umbrella organisation representing world Jewry, together with leading Evangelical ministries, makes this an historic initiative.
“The current plight of Middle East Christians is heart-breaking and even western churches have to do more to bring the suffering of our fellow believers to the forefront worldwide,” said Bühler. “But to have a prominent global Jewish leader lend his voice to this moral call for protecting the region’s persecuted Christians is unprecedented in modern times. We welcome all others of goodwill who will take a stand now for these vulnerable ancient Christian communities.”
Obligation to speak out
“Just as Christians defend Jews against anti-Semitism, just as Christians support Israel, we Jews have an obligation to speak out against the growing persecution of Christians in many parts of the world,” Lauder said in explaining his participation as head of the World Jewish Congress.
“Islamist extremists have launched a full-fledged assault on our Western values, on our civilization, and Jews and Christians must work hand in hand to defeat this threat. For too long, the world has remained silent in the face of this evil. We must act before it is too late,” Lauder added.
“This letter gives an important voice to Christians who are being persecuted and even killed for their faith around the world, especially in the Middle East,” said Dr. Wilson of ORU and Empowered21, a major network of Evangelical leaders worldwide. “In this age of technology, we have a greater awareness of these types of alarming oppressions and a greater responsibility to protect Christian communities. Most Christ followers in these difficult situations will not respond with violence and therefore need global governmental authorities to stand with them against these injustices.”
All three signatories on the letter addressed the press conference on Monday afternoon at the new Jerusalem Pais Arena, where the ICEJ’s annual Feast of Tabernacles was held.
Forced to leave Iraq
Canon Andrew White, who has lived and worked with Christians in Iraq since 1998 and who last week was forced to leave the country due to the threat of kidnapping by the Islamic State terrorist militia, also addressed a press conference on Monday.
White thanked Lauder and the ICEJ for their efforts in speaking out against the persecution of Christians, but said words were not enough to help alleviate the situation, reports The Jerusalem Post.
“Today we see the Jewish community standing with the beleaguered, harassed, murdered and massacred Christians of the Middle East,” said White.
“I used to have congregation of 6 500 people, but there are now more Iraqi Christians in Chicago than in Iraq,” he continued. White has been nicknamed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” for his leadership role in the Christian community in Iraq over the last 16 years.
He said that his church has been reduced to 200 members by the flight of Christians from Baghdad due to the violence in the city in recent years.
“All the letters in the world do not feed or protect our people, or give them shelter or protection… Our people are being killed and massacred, ISIS are there on the doorstep…
The UN is useless, they have done nothing for us whatsoever,” he said.
Call for ground troops
White called for the US to commit ground troops to the war against Islamic State, calling the air campaign ineffective and a waste of time.
The vicar was pessimistic about the prospects for the Christian communities of Iraq, Syria and the broader region, saying that he did not see a future for Christians in the Middle East.
White left Iraq eight days ago. He said that the Church of England and the British government told him it was too dangerous for him to be in the country and that he was at risk of being kidnapped and ransomed by Islamic State.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed Feast delegates at the Arena on Monday night, and thanked them for their support of the Jewish state, saying that the connection of Zionism to the Christian community had “deep historical roots.”
“Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your consistent trust and support,” he said.